The first record of a vertical garden dates back some 2500 years to the Assyrian culture who are credited with building the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in ancient Mesopotamia and this was listed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It’s also the inspiration for the name of our business.
By all accounts the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were awe inspiring. The gardens were sloped like a hillside and were terraced into different flowerbeds with exotic flourishing plants.
There were stairways that led to the uppermost terraced roofs and the plants hung over terraces that were supported by stone columns. Streams of water emerged from elevated sources and flowed down the inclined channels. Fountains created a humidity that helped keep the area green, cool and moist while the shade from the trees also helped to keep the gardens cool.
Ancient civilisations in England have used hedgerows as walls and some of these date back to 3000 BC. What is interesting about the hedgerows is that they contain some 10,000 species of wildlife, which shows their importance in the environment.
Today hedgerows are highly valued, not only for their cultural heritage and historical record, but also for their great value to wildlife and the landscape. Increasingly, they are also valued for the major role they play in preventing soil loss and reducing pollution and for their potential to regulate water supply and reduce flooding.
The Moors, were another civilisation that realised the value of vertical spaces and used courtyard walls for growing plants, keeping the ground space for outdoor living.
Since early times the focal point and the social life of the Mediterranean house has revolved around a central courtyard. Due to a hot, dry climate homes were built with a central courtyard even back in the days of the Romans. Filling the central patio and walls with plants and water features has always been a way to keep homes cool. This tradition was continued by the Moors and is perpetuated in many homes today.
Other civilisations such as the Japanese and Scandinavians have draped their buildings in greenery for ages and continue to do this.
Due to growing legislation to control air and water quality as well as urban temperatures, vertical gardens have made a reappearance and become a key solution to greening up urban areas.
Vertical gardens are used to clad buildings, both indoors as well as outdoors, or other landforms such as tunnels, slopes and walls.
This form of urban gardening is often designed as an art form to decorate buildings in cities and has been hailed as one way to make cities more enjoyable, healthier and ultimately greener places.
What makes the emergence of vertical gardens so interesting, is that gardens were originally used as mediators between the rural and urban environments where there was once the city and then the garden. This concept changed in 1857, when Frederick Law Olmsted, with his plan for Central Park, led a movement to have the garden in the city and where the garden was seen as the solution to the ills of the industrial city.
In the second half of the 20th century, Ian McHarg pioneered the concept of ecological planning. This led to the concept of the garden as the city, and placed the landscape at the forefront of future cities. This reliance on a beneficent ecology to control human activity fell short of improving human interactions. Cities require density and a legible civic purpose.
Diminishing natural resources, rapid climate change, energy efficiency and population growth are delivering compelling economic arguments for dense forms of urban development. So now it seems we are circling back to the idea of the garden in the city.